On your mark. Get set. Have fun at camp

A group of young campers plays a game of Canada's official summer sport, lacrosse, at Molson Stadium. Between 1,000 and 1,200 attend the McGill sports camp every summer.
A group of young campers plays a game of Canada's official summer sport, lacrosse, at Molson Stadium. Between 1,000 and 1,200 attend the McGill sports camp every summer.

By Jim Hynes

For eight weeks every July and August, between 8 and 8:30 a.m., they come from all directions, toting bulging backpacks, baseball caps askew on their heads and the crucial first coat of sunscreen already applied.  They are the kids of the McGill Sports Camp, and their morning meeting place alone is enough to give sports fans young and old a good case of the goose bumps.

Morning drop off, you see, is right on the field at Molson Stadium. If you’re a Montreal Alouettes fan, the chance to tread on your team’s home turf is thrilling enough.  Throw in the view of Mont Royal to the north, the surrounding cityscapes and the chatter of hundreds of happy campers and, well, let’s just say it will take a while for your smile to fade.

The McGill Sports Camp was founded in the summer of 1984 when the University decided that leaving all of its great sports and recreation facilities unused for two months every summer was a waste. Today, between 1,000 and 1,200 children from the ages of six to 15 attend the camp each summer, with an average of about 325 or so attending each of the eight week-long sessions.

“The camp essentially takes over the sports complex,” said Perry Karnofsky, Manager, Campus Recreation at McGill and one of five Athletics Department employees responsible for the camp. “We use all of our indoor facilities plus Molson Stadium and Forbes Field. Every once in a while we’ll take a group of the older children up to Mont-Royal for a hike, but everything else happens within the confines of the sports complex.”

And what a complex it is. Soccer, swimming, racquet sports, basketball, rugby, lacrosse, baseball – you name it. If it’s played at McGill, there’s a good chance the campers will be playing it, too. And with all of the indoor facilities, like the gymnasiums, the courts in the Fieldhouse and the various multipurpose rooms, a rainy day doesn’t have to put a damper on the sports fun.

“That’s one of the things that sets us apart from other camps,” Karnofsky said. “When it does rain, other camps out there head indoors and the kids end up playing card games or watching movies. For us, it’s business as usual when it rains. If a child was scheduled to play soccer in Molson Stadium and it rains, they’re most likely just going to end up playing soccer in one of our indoor venues.”

Each camper gets to spend 45 minutes in the pool every day. But swim time at the Sports Camp means more than just cannonballs off the diving boards and splashing around.  The first 30 minutes is devoted to swim instruction following the Olympic Way program focussing on the four competitive swim strokes. The camp employs an aquatic staff of 13 that does nothing but teach swimming all day long. Each instructor works with a group of 8-10 children.

“The beauty of our situation is that the kids’ regular camp counsellors get in the pool too as extra supervision,” Karnofsky said. “At any given time in the pool we have our swim staff plus another 10 to 12 counsellors as extra eyes. As far as the pool goes we have a tremendous amount of supervision.”

The camp employs approximately 100 counsellors every summer, the majority of whom are McGill Education students. The group also includes many McGill varsity athletes.

“We’re just finalizing the staff at this point but the way it’s looking now a lot of very talented athletes will be coming on board and teaching their sports to the kids,” Karnofsky said. “It’s looking really good.”

The McGill Sports Camp is open to all but offers a discount to McGill employees. This year the Camp is offering online registration for the first time. Act fast, as the sessions fill up quickly at this popular camp.

To register or for more information about the camp visit www.mcgill.ca/athletics/recreation/summercamp/sportscamp